TouchPad makes an encore to meet discount demand

HP says it will produce 'one last run' of the WebOS device to meet unfulfilled demand, after the discontinued tablet proved a success once heavily discounted

HP is to produce one last batch of its aborted TouchPad tablet line, the company said on Tuesday.

HP TouchPad

HP is to produce one last batch of its aborted TouchPad tablet line, following its wild success as a discounted item. Photo credit: Jason Hiner/TechRepublic

In a blog post by HP representative Mark Budgell, the computing giant said it had been "pleasantly surprised" by the rush to buy the TouchPad that had followed the device's discontinuation and subsequent discounting.

"Since we announced the price drop, the number of inquiries about the product and the speed at which it disappeared from inventory has been stunning," Budgell wrote. "Despite announcing an end to manufacturing WebOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand."

Budgell said HP did not know how many units it would produce or when they would become available. He added that the company could not promise enough units to entirely fulfil demand, but it would be "at least a few weeks before you can purchase" the discounted tablets.

The new inventory will be made available through HP's Home & Home Office online store, and the company's Small & Medium Business store will remain sold out. Budgell added that an order limit would be in place, to stop people reselling the devices and profiting from the heavy discounts.

Budgell also said it was hard to say whether new TouchPads would be made available outside the US.

The discontinuation of the TouchPad for its appalling sales in the face of competition from the iPad and Android led to the device becoming one of the most popular tablets, if only briefly.

HP's decision to stop making WebOS-based hardware, of which the TouchPad was the only tablet example, was quickly followed by price cuts from more than £400 to just £89, depending on the model. Consumers rushed to pick up the bargain slates, bringing down the servers used for HP's e-commerce operations and ensuring the devices were sold out within a day.

Using up stock

According to Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, HP had already made three million TouchPads and had many components, such as screen panels, left over. "It does seem to me like this is just a way to use up the stock when they have seen that there is demand at the $99 price point," she told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

However, Milanesi suggested that, although HP would benefit from a cost perspective, the move may position the company poorly, giving the impression that the TouchPad was "not good enough at $400 but flies off the shelf at $99".

"From an industry perspective, HP's misfortune has certainly helped deliver the message loud and clear of where consumers see value and where they do not," Milanesi added. "It is about a strong ecosystem and brand, not about hardware, unless it is very cheap."

According to a Reuters report, HP still sees tablets as a key part of the computing market.

Todd Bradley, who heads up the PC-making Personal Systems Group division that HP is considering spinning off, told the news agency that "tablet computing is a segment of the market that's relevant, absolutely", but did not say whether HP would resurrect the TouchPad line on a more permanent basis.

Meanwhile, HP has told ZDNet UK's sister site CNET News it plans to issue an over-the-air update to the TouchPad that will "enhance the platform and add functionality and a growing applications catalogue".

On Monday, HP announced an update to the WebOS version of Quickoffice, which adds editing functionality to the office productivity suite on the TouchPad, while also introducing further formatting options.

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